Three die in supermarket fire as Chile hit by violent protests

20 October 2019, 09:13 | Updated: 28 October 2019, 15:26

Violent protests have been taking place around the world this weekend, including in Lebanon, Chile, Azerbaijan and Hong Kong.

So what are the demonstrations about?

:: CHILE

At least three people have died after a supermarket in the capital Santiago was set on fire by demonstrators on Saturday.

Chilean President Sebastin Piera has announced the suspension of a 4% subway fare hike that had prompted violent student protests.

A night-time curfew in Santiago has also been declared following a state of emergency amid rioting and commuter chaos in the city.

As the curfew came into effect, thousands of people marched, gathered in public squares and came out of their homes to take part in traditional pot-banging protests.

During the day, soldiers backed up riot police who used tear gas and water cannon against demonstrators during fierce clashes in several squares.

Protesters set fire to tyres and logs to create burning barricades on several main roads, and motorway toll gates on the outskirts of the city were set ablaze.

Some subway stations burned, dozens of others were damaged, and protesters also set fire to a high-rise energy company building.

Troops patrolled the streets to keep order in Santiago for the first time since the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet ended in 1990.

The decision to deploy the armed forces sparked widespread shock in a nation that lived under his rule for 17 years.

There was also significant unrest in the port city of Valparaiso, the home of Chile's congress, where the government also declared military rule, and in the southern city of Concepcion.

The protests were sparked by the public transport fare increases which were announced on 6 October.

Frustrations over the high cost of living in Santiago have become a political flashpoint, prompting calls for reforms in many areas including tax and pension systems.

Chile does not produce its own oil and so relies on fuel imports, leading to higher prices for petrol and electricity.

The government said the subway fare increase was necessary because of rising energy costs, and the devaluation of the country's currency. But many Chileans are frustrated by the situation.

:: LEBANON

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Lebanon, including Beirut, on Sunday for the largest anti-government protests so far in four days of demonstrations.

They called for the removal of the political elite who they blame for cronyism and pushing the country's economy to the brink of collapse.

Protesters have slammed what they see as government corruption, mismanagement of funds and a failure to address high unemployment.

Both Christian and Muslim leaders were heavily criticised in a rare show of unity in a country split by sectarianism.

Upmarket stores and banks had their shop fronts smashed in by rioters.

The latest unrest was sparked by anger over the rising cost of living and new tax plans, including a fee on WhatsApp calls, which was retracted after the biggest protests in decades broke out.

Prime minister Saad al-Hariri said a final budget had been agreed which did not include any additional taxes or fees.

A Lebanese Christian leader has asked his four ministers in the cabinet to resign, saying he no longer believes the national unity government can steer the country out of the crisis.

The move by Samir Geagea, who heads the right-wing Lebanese Forces Party, is another test for the government but does not collapse the 30-member cabinet.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said his influential militant Iranian-backed Shia group was against the government resigning, adding it should bring "a new spirit" to tackling the crisis.

:: HONG KONG

Demonstrations against a perceived lack of democracy in Hong Kong have now been going on for five months in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

The protest movement sprang out of opposition to a government proposal for a China extradition bill and then widened into broader demands for full democracy and an inquiry into alleged police brutality.

On Sunday, protesters again flooded the former British colony's streets, ignoring a police ban on the rally and demanding the government meet their demands for accountability and political rights.

Officers fired tear gas outside one police station in Kowloon as tens of thousands of protesters gathered on a main road.

Protesters wore masks in defiance of a recently introduced ban on face coverings at public gatherings.

:: AZERBAIJAN

More than 80 protesters were detained at the start of a rally in the capital Baku against low salaries, corruption and a lack of democracy in the energy-rich former Soviet state.

The leader of the main opposition Popular Front party, Ali Kerimli, was among those detained. He was later released.

Demonstrators have a wide range of demands, including higher salaries for state employees, as well as fair and independent elections in a country accused of a lack of transparency by human rights groups and the West.

Before the protest, police closed several streets in central Baku, a couple of subway stations were temporarily shut and there were problems with the internet connection.

Azerbaijan has been governed by President Ilham Aliyev since 2003 when he succeeded his late father.

Western nations have courted Azerbaijan because of its role as an alternative to Russia in supplying oil and gas to Europe.

But various European organisations and human rights groups have accused Mr Aliyev of clamping down on dissent and jailing opponents - allegations which Baku denies.